Strange bedfellows in the Florida Senate race
Note: This post is a little bit of Florida politics “inside baseball,” but I think it’s an important story because it illustrates this point: not all candidates who wave a tea party banner actually represent the ideals of the tea party movement. Walking the walk is a lot harder than just talking the talk, and Florida is not the only state where attempts have been made to use the “tea party” name to divide conservative votes. Adam Hasner’s opponents are doing everything they can to discredit the many conservative endorsements he has received (including Erick Erickson’s), and I am trying to shed light on some of their tactics here.
For more information and the original post, check out my website:
After getting caught in what is, at best, a misrepresentation about testifying before Congress, and facing mounting questions about his record, new information has been discovered that is likely to further damage Colonel Mike McCalister’s credibility in the Florida Republican Senate Primary.
Previously under fire from Florida tea party organizers for his “bold self determination” declaring himself a “national Tea Party star,” McCalister appears to have made the unfortunate decision to ally himself with Doug Guetzloe.
In case you are not acquainted with Mr. Douglas M. Guetzloe, let me introduce you to some of his “greatest hits:”
- For years, Guetzloe has repeatedly been accused of being paid consulting or advertising fees that were more extortion payments to ensure loyalty than payments for actual services. A grand jury said that their “inescapable conclusion” was that Guetzloe was paid “hush money” as part of the “culture of corruption” present at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, as one example.
- After he was removed from the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, he helped start a third party political party with the misleading name “Florida Tea Party.” Guetzloe and others involved with the “Florida Tea Party” repeatedly engaged in attacks against legitimate Florida tea party activists, threatened lawsuits (and actually filed several), and had troubling ties to former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson.
- In the 2010 elections, Guetzloe and the Florida Tea Party worked to defeat Republican candidates by running FTP candidates in swing districts, in an attempt to split the conservative vote and give the advantage to the Democrats, because they would be listed on the ballot as (TEA).
- Many of the FTP candidates were previously registered Democrats, students with no explainable reason for running for office, and family members or roommates of FTP officers. The vast majority of them showed very low contributions and expenditures on their campaign finance reports and rarely appeared to actually campaign for votes. Fortunately their attempts to be “spoilers” failed, but RPOF and the targeted Republican candidates were forced to spend several million dollars to educate voters about the difference between the fake tea party political party and the actual tea party movement.
- Guetzloe has a history of violating election laws and failing to pay the fines imposed on him.
- A jury awarded a $1.61 million verdict against Guetzloe in a defamation suit earlier this year.
The bottom line is that Doug Guetzloe is no friend to the tea party movement or the Republican Party. As one Central Florida tea party organizer said to me (name withheld upon request), “I would go out of my way to not have my name associated with Guetzloe, in any way.”
Despite all of this history, the McCalister campaign is running ads on Guetzloe’s websites and on the website for the “Phoenix Network,” where Guetzloe’s internet radio program is broadcast. All of the McCalister banner ads on Guetzloe’s websites link directly to the McCalister campaign website. I have taken screenshots of the websites just in case the ads are removed after I post this information (images and links available on my website).
Additionally, on the “Phoenix News” section of the Phoenix Network website is a short article about last weekend’s Senate debate that is slanted to be favorable to McCalister (spelling and grammatical errors reprinted as in original):
ORLANDO–The top leading candidates for the GOP nomination meet for their first in what will be many debates leading up to the GOP primary for the US Senate.
The winner of the primary in August 2012 will face longtime incumbent US Senator Bill Nelson for the seat in November of 2012.
Candidates; Colonel Mike McCalister, Adam Hasner, George LaMieux and Craig Miller debated the issues at a local Orlando school for several hours.
According to my observers, Colonel McCalister made a positive impression among the conservative, Christian-crowd.
Following the debate, a Miami Herald reporter accused Col. McCalister of not telling the truth about an appearance before a congressional panel. McCalister offered this response: “When serving at the United Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa, I had the opportunity to accompany the Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General (LTG) W. P. Tangney, as the Subject Matter Expert to a hearing. The Army, like all other branches of the military, work as a team. I sat under the bright Capitol lights with General Tangney, who relied upon my research and counsel to give accurate testimony to Congress. In fact, my Senior Rater, LTG Tangney wrote in my April 2002 Officer Evaluation Report (OER) that I “led the USSOCOM team at congressional hearing on military readiness, assisting [LTG Tangney] greatly in the testimony…” “Because of the high visibility study, [McCalister] was tasked with serving as subject matter expert for U.S. congressional testimony on Military Readiness and National Security.”
McCalister has served in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves, and on Active Duty for a total of 33 years between 1971 and 2005.
I have been studying Guetzloe’s activities for several years, and the prominent banner ad placement on the Guetzloe Report and Ax the Tax websites has historically only been given to candidates and causes that Guetzloe himself had personally adopted and supported. For example, in 2008 similar ads were placed for Mercedes Leon, a candidate for State Attorney in the Ninth Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola Counties).
To be fair, I do not know whether these ads are the result of McCalister purchasing advertising space with Guetzloe or Guetzloe donating the ads as an in-kind contribution. However, either way the McCalister ads would not be on the websites without Guetzloe’s blessing and involvement.
There are also a number of troubling coincidences between McCalister’s campaign history and Guetzloe’s Florida Tea Party tactics.
In the 2010 Republican primary for Governor, McCalister acted as a spoiler, earning 10.1% of the vote, while the margin of victory between Rick Scott and Bill McCollum was three percent. McCalister raised and spent less than $9,000 in a race that was characterized by both the bitterness between McCollum and Scott and also the tens of millions of dollars the spent by the two front-runners (especially Scott). In fact, many viewed the votes for McCalister as “None of the Above” votes to protest the extremely negative campaigning by McCollum and Scott.
That all sounds very similar to what the Florida Tea Party was trying to do with the many unknown and unfunded candidates they ran for legislative races around the state in 2010: draw off a small percentage of voters disgruntled with their choices from the two major parties and act as a spoiler for the Republican establishment.
Remember, too, that the Florida Tea Party endorsed Scott (in a press release the day before the primary election) over McCollum, who was viewed as the “official” Republican candidate. Was McCalister working with Guetzloe back in 2010 to support the candidate the Florida Tea Party supported for Governor?
McCalister is following his past history of raising very little money for his campaign. As of the most recent information on the Federal Elections Commission website, he had raised less than $14,000. And by going after Hasner but not LeMieux (who many view as more moderate), McCalister also seems to be echoing the campaign messaging of 2010 Florida Tea Party Congressional candidate Peg Dunmire, who attacked the conservative Republican Daniel Webster, alleging he was corrupt and a big spender, and largely avoided criticizing the Democrat (the very, very liberal Democrat) Alan Grayson.
So what’s the game here? What’s Guetzloe’s role? Who is Guetzloe really supporting – McCalister? LeMieux? Or some other candidate yet to enter the race? Is McCalister running to be a spoiler again? Or is he really so naive as to view Guetzloe as an ally? (If so, that casts serious doubt on his judgment.)
Mike McCalister owes Floridians answers about his ties to Doug Guetzloe and his true intentions in the the 2012 Senate race.
He also owes the many people who have worked hard to support the tea party movement in Florida an explanation why he would have anything to do with a man who has worked so hard to undermine their efforts.